Spring cleaning

In my case, that means in part going through my inbox with a sharp eye and saying “can I unsubscribe from this?” I was astounded to figure out just how many times I was able to say “yes” to that question. The hope is that the inbox gets a little bit less cluttered.

I’m sure some marketing department got a little bit sad. Every unsubscribe routine is a little bit different, but the usual drill ends with a plaintive “we’re sorry to see you go, did we do something wrong to offend you?” Either you ignore that screen, or you click the politest thing that makes sense to click. Sometimes there’s a super-sad follow up automated email, “you’re off the list now, did you make a mistake?”

No mistake. I don’t need your weekly advertising specials, your cheap flights to places I’m not going to, your chirpy newsletter full of details of events I’m not going to. Trust me, if I need you, I can type your URL into a browser. What I don’t need is a daily / weekly reminder that I’m not interested right now.

Remembering Alfio Vielmetti (1911-2008)

This eulogy was read for my great-uncle Alfio (Auch) by his nephew Zorba. Alfio Vielmetti died in 2008 at the age of 96. I think of him when I am out on my walks, and I miss him when I wish I had someone like him to talk to about city council.


My uncle Alfio lived a life centered on family and community, with lessons learned hard in early years, and applied for a very long lifetime. Many of these lessons came from his father, Max, and Max didn’t discuss, he announced the lessons – and in some cased, how they were going to be learned. One of the earliest and strongest was sharing, and with seven siblings, there was plenty of constant reinforcement.

Brothers worked to help one another –to be there when needed- after all, Auch had an older brother named Rock. They all worked as kids, then as students at Ann Arbor- always working. Always remembering the hard times- that when they were kids, their shoes were stored once the weather turned warm- and they stayed there until the fall. Working for the iceman- that was tough work for a kid, but it helped make for a pretty tough kid.

Auch had a real love of working with his hands- building things, fixing things- his own, but also for others. He’d show up with the right tools to get a project going – or finished. He was generous with his time and talents- right down to answering a lot of questions from hyper-inquisitive nephews who wanted to build things too. He built a cottage at Spread Eagle pretty much from the dirt up, and helped Howard and Mitch keep their places going across the lake.

He was always providing for the family- building things, fixing things, making things better.

There was great pain in his earlier years, with the death of his wife Marge during the birth of his son David, but he found a new partner in Lois and with her support rebuilt the Vielmetti family home over 7 years down to the smallest detail –building the ”’components”’ of the smallest details., while building a business and partnering with his brother on various ventures.

Auch was a lifelong supporter of this church, not just going to mass every day and helping out financially, but working with Father Mark on the history of the parish and helping to identify folks in pictures and stories. He had a prodigious memory in regard to the people and history of Norway.

One of Auch’s fathers great commitments in life was to education- and as usual, Max walked the walk, sending every one of his children to the university of Michigan. Auch took it to heart as well, checking in on the next generation- verifying mid-story to see if they indeed knew the meaning of some of his terms and references, as well as founding standing scholarships at the Norway-Vulcan High School.

A couple of years ago I was at the hospital visiting Auch while he was recovering from cancer surgery, and before he unloaded on the doctors and staff about what they did right- the surgery; and what they did wrong, everything else; and how he was going home that day, regardless of what they thought, that he had his nephew and Jack Osborne there to spring him- well before all that, we talked about charity. No- that’s not quite right- I mostly listened. I listened as he told me of the importance of having charity in your life- in a very broad sense –in that we are all in this together, and that you owed something as your share- your contribution to your family, your friends, your town, and your country.

He pitched in on every level- from installing a new pump at our cottage, to establishing scholarships at the high school, to spending years following Patton across Europe during the war. He spoke of the easier kinds of charity- where you could send a check to folks doing good deeds here and there in the community- the world, and the closer in version- the one where you showed up, spent some time and effort to help out. The one where you had to get up, and get out.

In his later years Auch did a lot of walking. I mean a LOT of walking, some of it right below us when the weather was bad, and I am convinced that his amblings had a lot to do with the length of his stay with us. He walked every day to the library to read the WSJ, he walked to the stores and the bowling alley, and also, You see, on a lot of his walks, he went to sundry houses and visited the sick and the infirm- just a stop in to see how they were doing- and to cheer them up he said. Now if he was on tear about the city council, I’m not certain how cheery it was, but you get the idea.

The walking tours made for better health through exercise – as well as better health through helping others.

Auch was a good man who has left a rich legacy by example, and a lot of us are going to miss him.

Vintage Vacuum Cleaners for sale, Ann Arbor area

If you are interested, please contact Rusty at rra359@gmail.com . He writes on April 16, 2014:

I used to belong to the Vacuum Cleaners Collector Club a few years back. I live in Ann Arbor on the west side, and am interested in selling off my Vacuum collection. I am hoping you may know of some people who may be interested, since I am no longer in the club.

I have about 60 vacuums, dating back to the “coffee can Hoovers.” I donated a couple to the Hoover Museum when I went to the Hoover 100th anniversary a few years back. I have mostly Hoovers (60, 61, 62, etc), and an Electrolux G that is in practically showroom condition with all of the attachments including the power head and turbo floor scrubber. I also have a 1205 that works well. I’ve got a Rainbow (around 1993) and some older Kirbys (D-50, D-80, Classic III 2C and Legend). I also have some newer Miele’s that work very well.

The main reason for me selling is that I need the space in the basement, and need some $$ for home repair.

Dam break in Roscommon County Michigan

A dam broke in Roscommon County Michigan, flooding a downstream creek and washing out roads. I am on the lookout for a map of the area, because I know that dried out flooded lands often yield good mushroom hunting.

Some news articles:

UPDATE: Roscommon Co. Dam Failure Impacts Clare Co. Roads, 9 and 10 News

As of noon on Tuesday, the Wraco Lodge Dam along Wolf Creek has given way and high waters are moving downstream toward Old 27 and US-127. Areas downstream of the dam should prepare for flooding.

Water may cover US-127 between mile markers 185 and 186.

Precautionary and preparedness actions should be taken along Town Line Creek, Wolf Creek and the Muskegon River.

Flash flood warning issued as Wraco Lodge Dam breaches, UP North Live

Several roads have been reported closed due to flooding potential. Including Old 27 from the Clare County line to Snowbowl Road, County Road 402 from Paddle Trail southward, Wraco Road and Rollway Road from Old 27 to Reserve Road, and Newaygo and Townline Roads from Wraco Road to Rollway Road.

It’s a fairly new (2012) dam. The Houghton Lake Resorter wrote about its construction in New dam to help keep Wraco Lake at proper level, DNR biologist says. From the photo caption:

DAM TO SET ‘PERMANENT WATER LEVEL’ (Left to right) Jake Wangler and Perry Dagle of Porath Contractors place boulders in the stream bed of Wolf Creek as they construct a dam at the outlet of Wraco Lake Aug. 28. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Mark Boersen (right) said the dam will provide a “permanent water level” in the 200-acre lake, which he said would be about three feet lower than it was as construction of the dam continued. (Photo by Thomas Reznich)

Unsubscribing from a bitter local politics list (before I get kicked off)

I’ve unsubscribed from a local politics mailing list that I’ve been on for a while. Out of an abundance of not wanting to name names, I’m not naming names; chances are there’s one of these in your community too.

The ground rules of this list are almost certainly that of typical politics lists. There’s a list owner, who sets the rules. One of the rules is that the list is a private list, with no reporters on it and no one is supposed to share anything they get from the list to anyone who’s not on the list. Occasionally someone transgresses and they get visibly kicked off the list. A number of small-time politicians are on the mailing list, and it’s run by a former elected official.

I’m not sure how I ever got on the list, but I stayed on it. I didn’t feel like I could contribute anything to it, because if I was outed as a blogger I’m sure I’d be kicked off. And I couldn’t copy anything from it to anyone else (even though I did from time to time).

Small town politics can be very small and very bitter. The straw that broke the camel’s back was whining that there wasn’t enough parking near Farmer’s Market downtown, since apparently walking 5 minutes to an enormous structure nearby wasn’t enough.

Not my clowns, not my circus. My inbox is full enough as is. If I need to read this particular list, I’ll just FOIA the contents of the inboxes of the elected officials that subscribe to it.

(shakes dust off shoes)

Getting things done includes deciding what not to do.

Getting things done includes deciding what not to do. In my case, it’s a matter of going through my todo list and striking off the well-intentioned tasks from two or three months ago that took a moment to write and that would take hours to complete.

I’m better off at accomplishing things when there are fewer undone things to choose from.

Janet Choi writes about the done list for 99u.

When you do anything you consider useful, however small a win it may be, write it down on your done list.

This can lead to the purposeful behavior of writing something on your todo list just to cross it off and mark it done. The system I’m using doesn’t easily distinguish between the three states of “did and then wrote it down”, “wrote it down and did it later”, or “wrote it down and decided not to do it later”. But that’s a quibble.

Insane coin posse

The latest in cryptocurrencies is the Juggalocoin, proposed to handle the transactional needs of the fans of the Insane Clown Posse. From Billboard (because after all this is an entertainment story):

Whoop whoop! A very tech-savvy Juggalo by the name of Papa Nutt has taken it upon himself to create a cryptocurrency specifically for Faygo-chugging devotees of “the Family” to buy goods and services with*, especially at the upcoming Gathering of the Juggalos.

Now, the acid test of any coin: can you buy Faygo with it? From Slate:

It seems quite possible this is all a good joke, but given the purchasing power of the Juggaloes, the Faygo company might want to update its payment system just to be safe.

On Bitcointalk, someone who calls themself “Juggalocoin” launches into a spirited defense of the currency:

To reach the huge non-crypto masses requires something they can identify with. Dogecoin did it. Kinda. In a weird, fleeting way. Doge is just a glimpse of what’s possible. But memes have a VERY limited lifespan. Doge may grow beyond the meme. I don’t know. But with Juggalos, it’s not about a meme. It’s about a community. A community that already exists, and has been around for over 20 years!

This is the innovation that JuggaloCoin offers: A coin that appeals to a very specific, very tight community. A community of over 1 million people. We are offering a real opportunity for crypto to dramatically increase its reach.

For more details than you’d ever want to see, visit juggalocoin.org.

Previously on this blog, an account of Finn Brunton’s talk on cryptocurrencies.

The New York Times notices when the Michigan Daily scoops the Ann Arbor News

The story is Local News, Off College Presses, from April 13, 2014.

The constant changes have muddled The Ann Arbor News’s identity and, according to some residents, eroded its standing as the go-to source of news in the community. That sense was reinforced by the football article, on which The Ann Arbor News played catch-up after student reporters broke the story.

Poynter noted in 2011 that the University of Michigan had placed a member of its PR staff on the AnnArbor.com editorial board. This drew criticism from former Ann Arbor News reporter Jim Carty at the time.

David Lampe spent a good six months fighting The Ann Arbor News at every single point of our academics and athletics investigation. He is a well-paid professional spinner for the biggest organization you cover. The idea you would put him on your editorial board would be nothing less than mind-boggling if it weren’t for everything we’ve seen over the past year-plus. Pretty much epic fail on every front at this point, Tony.

You need to have a certain degree of editorial freedom to go after the biggest employer in town; the Michigan Daily clearly has it.

The Chicago Sun-Times gives up on newspaper comments, for now

The Chicago Sun-Times has given up on publishing reader comments on its stories, at least for now.

Starting this weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times and the other titles in the Sun-Times Media group will temporarily cease to run comments with our articles.

Why? If you’ve read newspaper comments, you’ll know why already: they are awful.

The world of Internet commenting offers a marvelous opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas. But as anyone who has ever ventured into a comment thread can attest, these forums too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.

It takes time, effort, energy, and love to engage with readers enough to make the stream of their comments to be anywhere near as worthwhile to read as the professionally produced stories that sit at the top of the page. Too often the news organization treats comments as an afterthought, or if they do think about it they are woefully unprepared to handle the burden.

It hasn’t always been the case, of course. Once upon a time (he says, shaking his cane) the letter to the editor was carefully edited, double checked for identity, and only run with some consideration. For the most part, newspapers have given up on their opportunity to corral the best of public discussion into their own pages, leaving it instead for the idiots on parade.

More about the Sun-Times decision:

Fark says

As frank as FARK comments can be, the worst seen here excel far beyond the idiocy seen on newspapers. At least Farkers have brains

Poynter reviews other news organizations that gave up on comments, including Popular Science.

Chicagoist gives sage advice: “A sage piece of Internet advice is often a simple one: don’t read the comments.”

Chicago Magazine understands the cost of turning reader contributions into something useful.

Turning readers’ invective into smart dialogue is not a new challenge—but now, it’s a bigger problem than ever. Solving it takes a lot of manpower, and some well-designed software.

Rage against changes in the telescreen

Facebook is changing; in this particualr case it’s a reorganization of the messaging functions into their own app. From Techcrunch, the predictable cries of frustration from people who are used to what they have.

Still, a unilateral forced migration is the exact kind of change Facebook users hate, and this will only breed more paranoia that their social network could change without their consent. Taking a slower “We’re switching everyone eventually, so you might as well do it now” approach might have gone over better than “Your familiar chat interface will be destroyed in two weeks whether you like it or not”.

We don’t like it when our telescreen is changed.

The telescreen is from George Orwell’s 1984. An excerpt

Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the overfulfillment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plate commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. but at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.